In a competitive region for MBA programs — both online and on-campus — the University of Michigan-Dearborn College of Business stands out. Michael L. Kamen, director of graduate programs, credits one factor in particular: the name.
“There are a lot of universities in southeastern Michigan and more have moved into the online space, so articulating the value proposition for our degree program is something that’s really important for us,” Kamen tells Poets&Quants. “We really trade on that University of Michigan name — we emphasize the fact that we are AACSB-accredited, that the regents of the University of Michigan deem our online degree equivalent to the campus program, and that there’s no difference in the transcripts. The courses are the same, it’s just the delivery format is different.”
UM-Dearborn’s online MBA program may emphasize the “UM” portion of its name, but there’s no competition with the main campus in Ann Arbor, about 38 miles away; the University of Michigan Ross School of Business doesn’t have an online MBA program. Dearborn’s, meanwhile, is ranked 36th by U.S. News & World Report, highest in the state.
SETTING THEMSELVES APART FROM THE COMPETITION
UM-Dearborn’s program is fully online, with no on-campus requirement, including exams, orientation, and academic advising. However, students can “mix and match” if they wish, Kamen says. Total official online enrollment for the fall of 2017 was 103, compared to 133 students in an on-campus program that is “typically part-time. The thing that’s a little unique about us: We let our online students take campus courses, and we let our campus students take online courses,” Kamen says.
The program has three intakes, in fall, winter, and spring. At 47%, they have a very low acceptance rate compared to many other top-50 programs; they boast an average GMAT score of 591. Without a concentration — UM-Dearborn offers two online: Finance and International Business — the program is 36 credit hours, typically taking students two and a half years to finish, Kamen says — though they can finish in as little as two semesters or as long as seven years.
It is an asynchronous, non-recorded program, with a nine-course, 27-credit core of “basic building blocks of business”: accounting, economics, business statistics, decision sciences, intro to finance, management information systems, marketing, organizational behavior, and operations management. Interestingly, the program also features a core course in corporate social responsibility. Returning to the theme of setting itself apart from the regional competition, Kamen says UM-Dearborn offers a unique post-core curricular twist.
“We do most of our competing against a lot of universities in this region, so we’re unique in that we have a set of courses that come after the core that we call ‘Applied Integrated Management,’” he says. “You have to have completed specific prerequisite courses from the core before you can even take these applied courses. There are four courses in Applied Integrated Management that occur in different areas — it’s where the rubber meets the road. You’re taking what you’ve learned in the core courses as well as your own professional work experience and then bringing that together and learning how to apply it in particular cases in these applied courses.”
A BOON TO THIS STUDENT’S CAREER
Dana Orozco, senior regulatory specialist for BASF, found out about the UM-Dearborn online MBA by searching — how else? — online, as well as asking for advice from colleagues. The program fit her full-time work, free-only-at-night schedule, though after her recent promotion she had to reduce her class load to one per semester. She graduated this past summer.
A business regulatory liaison who translates regulatory information to business colleagues, Orozco participates in the UM-Dearborn online MBA program from Brighton, Michigan, about an hour away.
“I believe that the MBA has helped me receive my two last promotions,” Orozco tells Poets&Quants. “Also, the knowledge that I gained from my classes has helped me with my technical background to have much better understanding and communication with my business colleagues.”
RANKED TOPS IN MICHIGAN, ‘AND WE TAKE THAT RANKING VERY SERIOUSLY’
For an in-state student, the total cost of the UM-Dearborn online MBA program is $2,649 per three-credit course; for someone completing 48 hours, that’s 16 courses, or about $42,384. Students who enroll in three courses per semester get a price break from $883 per credit hour to $592, though Kamen says “the reality is, most of our students enroll part-time, and they don’t hit the nine credit hours in the online program that often.”
The program was launched in 2001. Four years ago, the College of Business converted from Blackboard to the Canvas Learning Management System, a move that “allowed us to integrate video content more easily,” Kamen says. “Some of the online collaboration is easier to do on Canvas, and overall it’s been a more functional system for us.” However, he adds, “as far as the actual delivery of the courses, that’s been fairly constant over time, just with more attention to integrating video, linking to external content, making sure we’re getting the collaboration with our online students, that sort of thing.”
Another point of emphasis: combating plagiarism. The school has opened several fronts in the battle, beginning with an honor pledge all online students must sign. All homework, meanwhile, is checked automatically through a third-party vendor integrated into Canvas. “This is part of a new initiative over the last two, three years,” Kamen says. The school also is piloting the use of off-site testing centers, which would be yet another way UM-Dearborn sets itself apart from competitors.
“We are very highly rated,” Kamen says. “U.S. News rated us the number-one online MBA in Michigan, and we take that ranking very seriously. We have managed to attract very strong faculty who publish in top journals, so we do very well with faculty publication. We’re a lot different from other online MBA programs in that we actually have a research faculty.
“A key differentiator is that we are part of the University of Michigan system, and so there’s an expectation of quality there. We are able to attract stronger students because we are the University of Michigan and we don’t admit everybody who applies to the program. We have a very selective admission process.”